New Trend: States Suing Other States Over Pro-Climate Policies

THE SITUATION: The Minnesota Legislature is on the verge of signing into law legislation that would set a 100% clean electricity standard by 2040. If passed by the Minnesota Senate and signed into law by Governor Tim Walz, Minnesota would be the 12th state to reach this historic achievement. 

Should this legislation pass, it is bound to be tied up in legal challenges. North Dakota has threatened to sue Minnesota should the pro-climate majority trifecta pass 100% clean electric legislation. 

North Dakota’s impending lawsuit isn’t an outlier. It’s a part of a growing trend orchestrated by fossil fuel companies to delay pro-climate action against the climate crisis. In fact, many states controlled by anti-climate legislatures have pursued litigation once it became evident fossil fuel companies would lose a climate fight. 

Some examples include: 

January 11, 2021: Utah sued Richmond, California after the city council passed an ordinance to phase out petcoke - an oil-refining byproduct - and coal shipping in the community.

                November 15, 2021: This lawsuit reached a settlement under the agreement that the ordinance would go into effect by 2027.

September 11, 2018: Montana and Wyoming, joined by Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Utah, sue Washington State for blocking the states’ ability to establish a coal-export terminal along the Columbia River. 

                June 28, 2021: Montana and Wyoming lost the lawsuit. 

Legal challenges are a tired playbook tactic by special interest groups. It has been used against historical laws like the Affordable Care Act and on issues like women’s health care, water safety, and education equity.

WHY IT MATTERS: A recent report shows it is more expensive to run and manage coal-fired power plants than renewable energy resources. The Inflation Reduction Act, the bipartisan infrastructure law, and the CHIPS and Science Act are implementing the largest investment for clean energy jobs in modern history. Essentially, fossil fuel companies are losing the climate fight and are doing everything possible to hold onto the power they’ve wielded for generations. 

State-against-state lawsuits against pro-climate legislation could become the norm in the future. Why? Because fossil fuel companies don’t only wish to delay pro-climate policy, they want to kick it to a sympathetic U.S. Supreme Court.

CLIMATE CABINET QUOTE: “States suing other states for passing pro-climate policy is just another tactic by fossil fuel lobbyists to protect their special interests and their bottomline. This tactic has one goal: delay thoughtful policy against the climate crisis, action that invests in cheaper renewable resources and creates high-paying clean energy jobs for workers. Climate Cabinet is going to fight this effort by electing pro-climate champions in state and local offices across the nation, because now - not later - is the time to fight climate change and save the communities we cherish most. That gets done when more pro-climate leaders are elected to state and local office.” - said Caroline Spears, Executive Director for Climate Cabinet. 

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